Do you feel that you’re constantly lagging a little behind with what you’ve got to do, that you always complete what you’re working with at the last moment, that deadline is always a bit too close??? From time to time I experience this myself and for me it’s both stressful and frustrating.
A string of activities
Imagine all the tasks you perform one after another in a long row. We might picture these as cylindrical beads with different lengths on a taut string, since we do most things sequentially.?? Also imagine that along the string runs a time axis, where your deadlines are marked. At this point in time you are done with tasks just in time (at best), so the end of each bead is equivalent to a deadline.
If we think about it, we’re able to conclude that it probably wouldn’t take more time to do each task in advance rather than at the last minute, so we should be able to pull the string of beads a little bit back in time and still have time to do exactly the same things, with the difference that we’re constantly slightly ahead rather than behind.?? As you can see, this is an analogy that only applies to the tasks where we aren’t dependent on other people’s input, whose planning we have no control over. But for most of us there is still a lot we can do independent of other people.
One step ahead
The feeling of being one step ahead is fantastic. To have time left before the deadline is like breathing fresh, oxygen rich air and you feel energetic and ready for whatever comes up.?? Now you might think: “But, it can’t be that easy, to just start doing everything earlier? I haven’t exactly got spare time and I can barely keep up with what has to be done now or even the things that had to be done yesterday!” No, you’re absolutely right. This does not happen automatically, but we need to start the change by creating space, even if it’s only a small space. Sure, it’s an extra effort today, but the rewards will be plentiful later. If you are doing something in advance today, you will have time to do something else in advance as well on the date you intended to do what you are doing today.
- Pick a task which needs to be completed in quite a while, for example, in a month.
- Determine how much space you want to create to do at least something about the task right now, today. It can be ten minutes or even as much as half an hour.
- Produce the ten minutes or half an hour you’ve decided upon by giving the task priority and postpone a task that’s lagging behind already (half an hour more or less might not make much difference), or by saying “No, unfortunately, I have to prioritize something else” to someone who asks if you can fix something, or by squeezing your lunch break to half the time just for today.
- Work with the task during the time period you have decided to. Allow yourself to actually let go of the task when the time runs out, so that you feel you can “afford” to start doing things long in advance, since you’ve got control over how much time the task claims from your already tight schedule.
- Before you drop the task and continue working with today’s urgent things, on your to-do-list, write down a task that reads something like “Notice how it feels to ahead of schedule be done with that one task which I’ve completed well in advance this time” and let the reminder expire the day before the deadline of the task you’ve chosen.
- When that day comes, enjoy.
A gift to your future self
To do something for yourself in the future is to give your future self a gift. Think about when you open the folder of today a February morning and find that you already prepared both the important meeting agenda and the material you need that day, a long time ago. You send a thought of gratitude to who made the effort - your historical self.
How do you do it?
How do you do to catch up with and regain control over your deadlines as well as your long-term planning?
Your comment is most welcome (below)!